Dragon was in the conference room for what seemed like an eternity. She had closeted herself in the room with the scroll Talia had given her at the culmination of our visit to Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store. When she opened the door and beckoned, she appeared to be vacillating between extreme agitation and looking like the cat that ate the canary.
I entered the room with trepidation. “I sense there is a wee problem.” My raised eyebrow underscored the sarcasm dripping from my words.
Dragon narrowed her reptilian eyes and a growl rumbled deep in her throat. “There was.” The beast began pacing around the room. “While not precisely deceitful, Talia was not quite straightforward with us regarding the information on the scroll.” She stopped pacing and looked at me. “When she handed me the scroll, Talia said this will explain, did she not?” Not waiting for me to reply, she continued, her tail lashing and her voice strained. “Unfortunately, it does not explain. It neither names the form of magic exhibited by Marisol, nor identifies the source.”
I frowned. “Then the scroll is useless?”
“Not entirely.” Dragon furrowed her brow as she resumed pacing. “It does contain a spell to shield me from Marisol’s power, so she will no longer be able to see my true nature, nor cause me to shapeshift to my beastly form if she says something in the presence of others. Of course, that enchantment works directly on me, not on Marisol.”
I wrinkled my brow and raked my hand through my hair. “I don’t think I understand. If the child is no longer able to see your true nature or force you to shapeshift, how can you say the spell doesn’t affect her?”
Dragon stopped pacing and rolled her eyes. “After all this time, you still do not understand wards?” She scoffed. “The spell works on me, not on Marisol, because the spell is constructed to protect me. It is like placing a ward on your door. The ward keeps thieves out, not by affecting the thief, but by preventing their lock-picking skill or magic from affecting the door.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Hmmm . . . I think I understand.”
Nodding curtly, Dragon explained, “The spell from Talia is merely a more advanced version of the spell I have been using, but one that requires far less energy to cast and maintain.”
I smiled. “That’s good. Now what about her ability to see through your spell of concealment?”
“Well, that is interesting.” The way Dragon pronounced the word interesting, I knew she found it anything but.
I rubbed my chin. “Explain?”
Dragon began pacing again. “Included in the information Talia shared in the scroll was the suggestion that it would be very difficult to cast a spell on the child. Of course, I took offense at that suggestion, as I am sure my power would be adequate to the task.”
I nodded, not daring to comment.
“But because Talia evidently did not deem me powerful enough, she did not share a spell to prevent Marisol from seeing through my spell of concealment.” Smoke started to drift from her snout and her tail was twitching.
“I sense there’s more.” I gestured at the beast to continue.
“Indeed, there is.” The smoke disappeared and a hint of a smile tugged at the corners of Dragon’s mouth. “When I reached the end of the scroll Talia had given me, I noticed that the parchment felt strange. It felt as if it were too thick. I examined it, and found a second scroll adhered to the first, like two pages of a book stuck together. It took me considerable time and effort to separate them without damaging either one.”
I wrinkled my brow. “And what did the second scroll contain?”
Dragon smiled widely, the canary-eating cat look returning to her face. “It contained the spell Talia did not share.”
“Are you certain she didn’t share it? Maybe she placed it on a second parchment rather than putting both on the same one.”
Dragon shook her head. “No, I am certain Talia did not mean for me to have this spell. It is not in the same hand that wrote the other one.”
I gaped at Dragon. “Do you think Christine gave it to you?”
The behemoth nodded. “That is what I surmise.”
I chuckled. “Boy, did Crawford have things all catawampus regarding the nature of those two women! So, do you have the components you need for both spells?”
Dragon shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. With the miserable, wet weather we have had all summer, Cleric, Sorceress, and I have been unable to gather and prepare the botanicals we need for our spells. Our stores are very low, and I am missing some key herbs and other components.”
I sighed. “Then I guess we’ll be visiting the herbal shop.”
An hour later, I turned my vehicle into the driveway at the organic farm where Marisol’s mother and aunt ran a shop specializing in herbs and other botanicals. Dragon, in her guise of an elf maiden, was sitting next to me, and Cleric and Sorceress were in the back seat. All three had long lists of supplies they needed to purchase.
As we wandered around the displays outside the big barn that housed the shop, my three characters added various herbs and botanicals to their baskets, while I checked out the organic produce. We were just heading toward the shop when Marisol’s mother, Bastina, saw us and came over. She had a thin smile pasted on her careworn face. “Hello, ladies! It’s so nice to see you again! Are you finding everything you need? We have so much more inside.”
Cleric nodded. “We found some items here, but we have many items to procure this day.”
Sorceress agreed. “We were going to look inside for the rest.”
Dragon furrowed her brow. “Perhaps if we show you our lists, you could save us some time by pointing us in the right direction for the rest of these items.”
“Of course.” Bastina smiled as she took the lists. She started to skim the contents, and her smile slowly disappeared. “These do not look like the ingredients for a curative broth.” She gave Dragon a sharp look. “What on earth will you be doing with these?”
Dragon merely raised an eyebrow at the question.
Bastina turned beet red. “Oh, my! Where are my manners? It’s none of my business what items you get or why. Here, I will show you where to find everything.”
I noticed Sorceress nudge Cleric and nod toward some nearby hay bales. Cleric smiled and cleared her throat to get Dragon’s attention. She used her chin to point at the heap of hay, and Dragon gave an almost imperceptible nod.
“Wait, Bastina.” Dragon’s lips twitched, and she winked at Bastina. “Perhaps it is best you know.”
I gaped at Dragon, worried about what she was going to say.
“We use these herbs and botanicals, along with other components, to cast spells.” Dragon smiled slyly at Bastina. “Right now, we are working on a spell that will prevent your daughter from seeing my true nature, that of a dragon. And she will no longer be able to see the horses on our property, or other things over which I have cast a spell of concealment.”
“I knew you were a dragon!” Marisol jumped out from behind a stack of hay bales, where she had been hiding and eavesdropping. “And I knew you had horses in your yard!” The precocious five-year-old turned to her mother and stamped her little foot. “And you didn’t believe me, mommy!”
Dragon squatted down next to the child. “I was hoping to keep it our secret, but I suppose it is only right your mother knows the truth.”
Bastina picked up her daughter, swung her high up over her head, and then gave her a hug. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you, little one.” She smiled and exchanged a conspiratorial look with Dragon. “So, Dray, tell me how this spell works. Will Marisol have to drink some awful-tasting potion? Or will she have to spend the night alone in the forest during a full moon?”
“Oh mommy!” The child giggled. “That’s not how magic works.”
“You are right, it is not.” Dragon chuckled. “No, there will be no yucky potions to drink, nor any cold, lonely nights in the woods with only the creatures of the dark for company. I will prepare the spell components and recite the incantations and poof! You will never see me as a dragon, nor will you see any of those things I have hidden by means of magic.”
Bastina smiled gratefully at Dragon, but Marisol’s face crumpled, and a tear slid down her cheek. “I will never see your shiny red scales again, or your fearsome teeth and claws? And I will never get to pet your horses?”
“I am afraid not, my little friend. Perhaps when you are older, I can introduce you to someone who will help you understand.”
Marisol brightened, but her mother’s brow furrowed. “Child, why don’t you go and help your Aunt Danica?”
“Okay, mommy. Goodbye, Dragon! Goodbye, witches.” Marisol waved at me and my characters and ran off to find her aunt.
Bastina was wringing her hands. “Dray, you were just . . . well, you saw my daughter hiding behind the hay bales and you were just making sport, right? Just going along with her and her imagination?”
“Of course, Bastina. What else?” Dragon’s face was the picture of innocence.
“It’s just that . . . well, when you mentioned someone who could help her understand . . . well, I just thought . . .” Bastina’s voice trailed off, and she shrugged. “Well, I don’t know what I thought.”
“You thought, perhaps, I was suggesting your daughter really does posses some sort of power, and that I knew someone who could help her learn to control it and use it properly?” Dragon raised an eyebrow and made a moue.
“Silly, isn’t it?” Bastina scoffed.
“Silly,” Dragon agreed.
As we headed to the barn to complete our shopping, Dragon smiled wistfully and leaned toward me. In a voice so low I had to strain to hear, she whispered, “I know this is an issue that needs to be revisited at some point in the future, but for now I am relieved to have a temporary resolution, even if it means not being quite honest with Marisol and Bastina.”
I nodded, and looked over my shoulder Bastina. I saw her furrowing her brow and chewing on her bottom lip as she trailed along behind us. I sighed.
Does Bastina suspect Dragon isn’t just joking? Will the woman ever figure out the truth about her daughter? At least we won’t have to worry anymore about Marisol seeing things she shouldn’t. I wonder what misadventures await my little band of displaced characters next. Be sure to come back and join us again next week. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.